Research News

Micro Pills Could Deliver Drugs on Demand

Temperature-sensitive capsules release chemicals at tightly controlled rates

Researchers have now crafted tiny, hollow capsules out of lipids--water-repellant molecules in the same family as fats and oils--that crumple and collapse when cooled below body temperature. The collapse squeezes out whatever chemicals are inside the miniscule ball in a controlled manner that could one day deliver drugs to the human body or improve cosmetics.

Developed by physicist and NSF (Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) awardee Sahraoui Chaieb and his colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the capsules range in size from 10 to 100 micrometers (millionths of a meter) across.

For now, the capsules are in the earliest stages of development and not yet ready for medical use, although the researchers are discussing potential applications of the technology with a cosmetics company.

Before the capsules can be used to deliver medicine, the researchers say they must first develop a mechanism to cool the tiny pills without endangering surrounding body tissues.

The research was published in the Feb. 17 issue of Physical Review Letters.

See the full university press release at the link below.

--Josh Chamot